How do the 2017 NBA draft picks for the Atlanta Hawks stack up against other top prospects of their class?
With the Hawks in a retooling stage, it is important to find out what some young guys can offer in the present and how they project for the future. Travis Schlenk took the reigns of becoming the team’s General Manager in 2017 after spending extensive time in the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors front office and immediately got to work scouting for the 2017 NBA Draft.
The Hawks ended their season losing to the Wizards in the playoffs, settling into the No. 19 selection slot in the draft order, and there was some debate on which direction the Hawks would go position wise. When Schlenk and the Hawks decided to not offer Paul Millsap a contract extension and moved Dwight Howard to Charlotte, it became clear that the Hawks were going to need help in the front court.
With the 19th overall selection in the draft, the Hawks selected John Collins out of Wake Forest. Collins, a 6’10” power forward, was named to be first-team all-ACC and was the ACC’s Most Improved Player of the year for 2017 in his sophomore season at Wake and declared for the draft immediately following the season. Coming out of college Collins was viewed by most media outlets as a top 15 pick but slid into the Hawks lap at the 19th pick where Atlanta wasted no time selecting him.
Collins was tabbed for the Las Vegas Summer League where he absolutely dominated, showing off his great leaping abilities and great play in the pick and roll. Collins has been outstanding in his rookie campaign posting 10.5 points per game with an effective field goal percentage of 60%.
The young big man has also shown his ability to shoot from beyond the arc as well hitting 34% of his three pointers this season. Collins has really been a stat sheet stuffer this season, averaging seven total rebounds per game, one assist per game, one block per game and nearly a steal per game with the craziest thing being that Collins is posting these gaudy numbers in just 22 minutes per game.
Some other top rookies in the frontcourt are Kyle Kuzma, Lauri Markkanen and Bam Adebayo, so lets take a look at how John Collins matches up.
Kuzma has come out of nowhere this season to average 16 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists for the Lakers who have even had him starting in games because he has been doing so well. The biggest difference between Kuzma and Collins is the amount of playing time Kuzma receives compared to Collins. Kuzma is averaging 30 minutes per game whereas Collins is only averaging 22. Collins is sporting a better PER this season of 21 over Kuzma’s 14.9 and Collins looks to be the much better defender while not necessarily losing any of the offense Kuzma brings to a team.
Markkanen made NBA history earlier this season when he became the fastest rookie to reach 100 career NBA three pointers. Markkanen’s game is also much different from Collins as Markkanen is a perimeter-based big man and Collins specializes in the more traditional big man role while still being able to contribute from 3 but just much less than Markkanen. Markkanen is averaging 15 points and nearly 8 rebounds per game with an effective field goal percentage of 52% and, although Markkanen is touted as the better three point shooter, he is only shooting 37 percent (albeit on much greater volume) compared to 34 percent for Collins. Once again, Collins is the much better defender with Markkanen edging Collins slightly to this point on the offensive end for his versatility but is much less efficient.
After becoming yet another team to pass on John Collins, the Miami Heat selected Adebayo with the No. 14 overall pick in the draft. Adebayo was widely regarded coming into the draft as the best big man available and has played well this season in his limited playing time. Much like John Collins, Adebayo only receives around 20 minutes per game and has an effective field goal percentage of 56% while posting an average of 7 points per game to go along with 5 rebounds. In many ways, the two players are very similar in style and talent level but the biggest difference that puts Collins over the top is his ability to shoot the three. Adebayo’s three point percentage is 0 (although he has only taken 4 threes this season) but Collins has shown to be the more complete player with all facets of his game either equal to or better than Adebayo’s to this point in their rookie campaigns.
In short, John Collins has been nothing short of amazing this season for the Hawks, posting other worldly numbers in a limited amount of action. At just the tender age of 20, the youngster looks like he could become the centerpiece of Atlanta’s retooling efforts and has proved to be the surefire steal of the 2017 draft.
Draft Grade: A+
Before the 2017 NBA draft began, the Hawks made a trade that sent Dwight Howard and a second round pick to the Hornets in exchange for Marco Belinelli, Miles Plumlee and the No. 41 pick in the 2017 draft. Atlanta drafted Dorsey with the 41st pick out of Oregon hoping to find some help from beyond the arc after a dreadful 2016-17 from three.
Dorsey was also a participant in the NBA Summer League but for only a short time after suffering a right ankle injury early on in the tournament. Dorsey opened the season with the Hawks near the end of the bench and was not getting much playing time behind wings Taurean Prince, Kent Bazemore, Marco Belinelli and sometimes Malcolm Delaney.
Dorsey was sent down to the G-League affiliate of the Hawks in Erie several times before finally beginning to get meaningful playing time a few weeks ago after Atlanta suffered a barrage of injuries to their wing rotation. Dorsey has made sure to take full advantage of his opportunity and since and has made at least one three pointer in 9 of his last 10 games played while showing off some improved defensive footwork that is garnering him some serious consideration to stick in the rotation. Since returning from Erie on Dec. 30, Dorsey has hit 16 of 37 three pointers, good enough for 43 percent over that time period, which would rank him in the top 10 overall in three point percentage this season.
Sadly, it is too hard to compare Dorsey to any other rookies as he has only averaged 10 minutes of game action this season but all signs are pointing in the right direction. Outside of his fantastic sharpshooting, Dorsey is also creating for others, averaging nearly an assist per game, and at just 21 years old, he projects to be a good contributor off the bench for Atlanta in the future with a chance to become something more.
Draft Grade: B+
Overall, Travis Schlenk’s first draft with the Hawks seems to have been a good one. The Hawks were able to find two talented players in areas of need and develop them into NBA contributors which should be the goal of every draft.
While John Collins has the chance to become a legitimate star in the NBA, make sure not to discount Tyler Dorsey’s potential to become one of the better shooters around the league in the near future with the Hawks player development team being one of the best around.